Before and after Pope: Why Should We Have to Watch Sorrentino?

This is a pretty nice question, mostly rhetorical, that needs to be answered; but still, why should we have to watch and feel excitement about Paolo Sorrentino’s movies. One of the iconic directors, such as Lynch, Kubrick, Ritchie and Tarantino. Paolo is that kind of artist, a director whose authentic style and `signature` are far beyond the normal expression, but his unique, easy madness is beloved and demanded.

Perhaps, an extraordinary perspective in movies is the one and the only thing he has in common with other gifted creators, nevertheless his philosophy stands out in the pictures we have seen, as his well-known, perfect visuals and, the last but not the least to impress, we also observe him to be an original thinker, with personal opinions. It’s so easy to absorb, even though ironically called genial because here minds us about the truth of life, its taste and, no less exciting, its aftertaste.

The recently launched series ` The New Pope` by Paolo Sorrentino, continues the familiar story about Young Pope Pius XIII  (Jude Law) in 10 episodes with John  Malkovich in the main role. Sorrentino explores religion and revealed temptation, excitement, obsession and bureaucracy through the heart of Catholicism, the heart of the world faith -the Vatican. As a footnote to Sorrentino`s imagery, which informs lots of his cinematography, it is wrong to accept the Vatican hierarchy, the embodiment of counteracted laws and canons through primitive human factors, although it was designed for public attention.

Pius XIII (Jude Law) was a man who was upset with God and justice, but until the last moment remained His Viceroy, faithful and unique in a sense. At first glance, the character who connects us with Sorrentino’s intentions seems to be ordinary, for who is Lenny (Pius XIII)  after all? An abandoned, offended, unhappy child at heart who became disillusioned with the world, with people, and even with God, discerning in each other’s eyes shame and manipulation.


The Young Pope
The Young Pope


His tempers are usual for gifted protagonists such as detectives, brilliant maniacs, doctors, killers. Lenny is cynical and fair, scanning people and is not afraid to overtake them or confuse with a sharp word; but still sensitive, kindly, infantile, and simple. In the case of the Young Pope, he has the gift of healing people, and therefore must wander in an eternal inner struggle. Painful surfing along the bottom of soul adds fuel to the fire of unlimited migration from the willingness to embrace religion to absolute rejection. He seems to be distant from and close to freedom at the same time. As is often the case for all of us, Lenny can’t escape from his painful memories and illusions, and is imprisoned by them and yet dares to become real, even while pretending to let go of things.

`Who is that? – It`s our new Pope`

So, the special Sorrentino manner is reflected either in movies or in series, in colorful screen images, in stylish studio interiors, in impressive actors and scenarios filled with popular quotes and phrases. Nothing to fear, that’s why, probably, half-naked women are dancing go-go around the neon cross in the sacral chamber – the primary title video, accompanied by Sofi Tukker single `Good Time Girl`. From the first second of the series, it catches all the attention and possible reaction to the nun, while showing the cleaning of the comatose Pope Pius XIII, transmitting the hot feelings of the naked pope’s body. This is the absurd part of the media aesthete Sorrentino.


John Paul III played by John Malkovich
John Paul III played by John Malkovich


The music list maintains the incredible variety that could be observed in the previous season. Hopefully, you will remember that episode, when Pius chose his official outfit accompanied by the song `I`m sexy and I know it`. The whole ambiance and music are from different galaxies, but it is this connection of sanctity and revolution that inspire an eagerness to tune into the next series in order to make sure something beyond incompatibility is going on here, including all the intelligent conversations about ancient art objects, icons, and the proximity of the saints, all from the still-young Pope.  It is interesting to note that many episodes in the new series were filmed in the actual Vatican chapels, while in the first season this was forbidden and most of the scenes were shot at the studio, in spaces constructed to resemble the Sistine Chapel.

Although the second season was designed to stand alone, it’s impossible to watch it without looking back at earlier episodes. There are a lot of `young` connections and cameos, which were of primary importance during multiple episodes at the beginning. But, what changed? Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), who was sent to Africa by Pope Pius XIII to run the religious communities there, does not return to the screen. Anyway, she was close to Pope Pius, but after the new papal election, John Malkovich inherits the Pope’s throne and the new ecclesiastical robes.

In the first episodes, after Lenny’s fatal disease and the failed attempt to elect a new pontifex in the person of Francis III, the alternative Pope supervisor from the first season, Don Tommaso (Marcello Romolo), a period of confusion about the future of the Church endangers the Vatican’s chances for a stable existence. Actually, it was more the fortuitously-timed death of Francisc III, than a confluence of circumstances – he died of a heart attack, and a few days later five Vatican ambassadors goto the second member of the conclave, Sir John Brennocks (John Malkovich), who becomes the new Pope, Ioannes Paulus III.

What is new? Except for the jokes, the famous stars stand on their own – Marilyn Manson and Charlize Theron, for instance. Marilyn Manson gives the Pope a self-portrait and afterward shows the amazing photos of his newborn nephew. It is touching, but inconceivable.

Before watching Paolo Sorrentino’s remarkable movies

Another thing to captivate in Paolo Sorrentino’s movies is the full merger of the characters into the conflicts of the plot. He forces them not just to observe life, but to speak-through strict contact with the events.


Paolo Sorrentino behind the scenes
Paolo Sorrentino behind the scenes


In other words, in the film `The Great Beauty’, the gluttonies of bohemian and bourgeois society allow the main character, 65-year-old Jap Gambardella (Toni Servillo), to review the people around him and find himself trapped in the grasping bonds of the elite. However, during his entire life he has been willing to be the `party king` and then after all of that starts thinking about love, about life, about children, about sincere feelings. Another philosophy in `Youth`, dreaming and thinking about death go hand-in-hand with daily life. This is part of Sorrentino’s constant reflection on the strength required to fulfill potential in time, leaving a trail for heirs.

Both his concept of imagery and the unlimited range of it provides the main things you need before watching Paolo Sorrentino’s remarkable movies. Neither a single key idea nor a simple focus imposed by the plot is wide enough to grasp all the perspectives he gives in a movie, above all that dare to embrace freedom in `The Great Beauty`, `Youth`, ` L`Amico di Famiglia` and particularly in `Popes`.

Photos: MovieStillsDB

Support us!

All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.


paypal smart payment button for simple membership

Share this post

Interested in co-operating with us?

We are open to co-operation from writers and businesses alike. You can reach us on our email at and we will get back to you as quick as we can.

Where to next?

“That ‘90s Show” Brief Review

Written by Alexandra Tarter, Editor-in-Chief Overview “That ‘90s Show” is a perfect throwback to Millennials’ childhood. Layers and layers of nostalgia reveal themselves in each and every episode, with a…

Culture through the lens of Photography

Photography is significant not just because it is a work of art but also because it is one of the most powerful tools for shaping our views and influencing our…